FILLMORE, Millard. Autograph letter signed ("Millard Fillmore") to Louis J. Cist, Buffalo, NY, 4 January 1855. 2 pages, 4to (9 7/8 x 7 13/16 in.), integral blank, in very fine condition.
A PRESIDENT'S HUMBLE ORIGINS: "NO MAN IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF HIS BIRTH...WHILE THEY REQUIRE NO APOLOGY THEY CAN JUSTIFY NO BOASTING"
Three years after leaving the White House, Fillmore responds to a request (from noted early autograph collector Cist) for details concerning the former President's early life. Befitting the Jacksonian credo that, in America, any man could achieve success by dint of honest toil, Fillmore's path to the White House began on a small, frontier farm in Western New York, where he received little education until age 19.
He writes, "I was born in Locke (now Summerhill) Cayuga County, New York, January 7th 1800; commenced the study of law with Walter Wood [a county judge] in Montville in the same county in 1819, and continued my studies in Buffalo, where I was admitted to practice in 1823. I was elected a member of assembly of this State in the fall of 1828...a member of the House of Representatives in the fall of 1832, and...was re-elected in 1836, 1838 and 1840, & served till the 3d. of March 1843, when I peremptorily declined a re-election." As far as his education is concerned, he admits that "I am not a graduate of any college, and to my regret have no other education than such as I was able to obtain at our common schools, then quite inferior to what they now are; and these I was only able to attend, after I was 10 or 12 years of age, during the winter, and the summer was spent in labor upon the farm, and afterwards on the business of carding and cloth dressing until the age of 19." With great humility, Fillmore sums up his modest origins: "The want of early advantages has compelled me to labor the harder since to supply the deficiency...as no man is responsible for the circumstances of his birth, they furnish nothing of which he should be ashamed or proud; and therefore while they require no apology they can justify no boasting."
Although Fillmore had retired to his Buffalo home in 1853, he was again called to the political stage again in 1856 when the Know-Nothing Party nominated him for President. He proved a strong third party candidate, polling 21 of the popular vote.
Provenance: The Robert Adam Ramsdell Jr. Collection of Presidential Autographs, property of the Nichol's School, Buffalo, NY (sale, Sotheby's, 26 April 1983, lot 39).